New Delhi: Former Pakistan National Security Advisor (NSA) Mahmud Ali Durrani on Monday admitted that a terrorist group from his country carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and the strike was a “classic example” of cross-border terrorism.
At the same time, he hoped that Islamabad would act against detained Lashkar founder Haafiz Saeed, the mastermind.
However, Durrani maintained that the Pakistan government had no role in the terror attack that claimed lives of 166 people.
Durrani’s admission at the 19th Asian Security Conference held at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) here is the first by any high-ranking Pakistani official.
“I hate to admit that the 26/11 Mumbai attack carried out by a terror group based in Pakistan on November 26, 2008 is a classic trans-border terrorist event,” said Durrani, who was the NSA when 10 Pakistani terrorists sailed into Mumbai and committed mayhem over three days.
Weeks after the attack, Durrani told a national TV that Ajmal Kasab, the lone terrorist arrested for the terror attack, was a Pakistani citizen – a remark that cost him his job on January 7, 2009.
“I made a statement on Pakistan television which the (then) Pakistan government did not like and I was sacked. Is that not enough proof for you?” Durrani, also a former Pakistan Army commander, told reporters at the IDSA, as per IANS.
He said as the then top security official in Pakistan, he had offered assistance to India to probe the Pakistani link into the strike but “unfortunately mistrust overruled common sense” at that time.
“I called my counterpart in India (Shivshankar Menon) and said if you allow, we will send two people for investigation to sit with you in Mumbai. But because of mistrust it was not allowed,” he said.
Later talking to reporters, Durrani said, “I know (this) for definite. I have very good information that the government of Pakistan or the ISI (Pakistan’s spy agency) was not involved in 26/11 (terror attack). I am 110 percent sure.”
Asked to elaborate, Durrani declined to divulge details, saying he was sacked by the Pakistani government for certain statements he made regarding the Mumbai attack.
“I made a statement which the government did not like and I got sacked,” he said.
In response to a question on JuD chief Saeed’s usefulness to Pakistan, Durrani said he has “no utility” for the country and that the Mumbai attack mastermind should be “punished”.
Durrani was sacked in 2009 for having indicated that Kasab may have been a Pakistani.
Kasab was hanged by India.
Durrani’s claim vindicates India’s stand: 26/11 prosecutor
Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor for 26/11 case, Ujjwal Nikam today said that Durrani’s statement vindicated India’s stand that the neighbouring country was sponsoring terror.
The lawyer said though Durrani’s statement had no “legal value” it was important since it “exposed” Pakistan.
“The admission has no legal value but it is important for two reasons. It has exposed Pakistan thoroughly and India’s stand that Pakistan is sponsoring terror stands vindicated,” he said.
Seizing on the statement, Nikam said Durrani being a former NSA, his admission about the involvement of Pakistan would establish that it has sufficient evidence against such terror outfits and details of the conspiracy.
“I must congratulate Durrani on this admission but his attempt to save the state actors can not be accepted because LeT operative David Coleman Headley told a Mumbai court about links between LeT operatives and ISI personnel,” he said.
“This would mean Pakistan cannot absolve itself from the responsibility of punishing state actors as well as non-state actors,” Nikam added.
India’s stand consistent, well known: Union Minister Kiren Rijiju
On the other hand, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju today said India’s position on the 26/11 Mumbai attack is very well known and there is “nothing new” in Durrani’s remark.
“India’s position is very well known and consistent. There is nothing new for us,” Rijiju told PTI when his response on Durrani’s statement was sought.
India has been maintaining that Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba was behind the 2008 terror strikes and has been demanding action against Saeed.
However, Pakistan has been maintaining that it demands more evidence to bring Saeed to book.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said on February 12, 2016 that it was abundantly clear that Pakistan’s ISI was behind the deadly Mumbai attack and Islamabad should act against all those involved in it.
Former Home Minister P Chidambaram had said on June 28, 2012 that Pakistani state actors were involved in the 2008 carnage.
“When I say state actors, at the moment, I am not pointing a finger at any particular agency. But clearly there was state support or state actors’ support for the 26/11 massacre,” he had said.
(With Agency inputs)